“Unfinished Business” A Devotion on 1 Corinthians 3: 6

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”—1 Corinthians 3: 6

At the beginning of my ministry I taught myself to cook. I was serving two small congregations in rural Maine. I was single then and rattling around the parsonage, so to keep myself occupied (and fed) I started reading various cookbooks and trying out different recipes.

I discovered I really liked to cook. I would buy the ingredients, follow the directions, and, at the end of the process, my dish either came out right or it didn’t. I liked that. There was no waiting around for the results.

One of the reasons I liked cooking so much was that it was different from my life in the church where you don’t see such quick results. In the church you seldom get the immediate sense of completion that you do in cooking.

I came to realize that the Christian life is more like gardening than it is like cooking. In the church, as in gardening, you plant seeds, you water and tend your garden, and you wait. You wait for God to give the growth.

Addressing a church fight in Corinth, Paul tells the congregation that the church is not about any one person. It is a team sport, and builds on what others have previously done. Paul founded the church in Corinth. He planted it, and Apollos, who came after him, watered it, but it was God who gave the growth.

The church’s business remains unfinished for now. Others will take it up. In the meantime we worship, we pray, we teach and learn, we care for each other and for our world. We move from season to season under God’s abiding care, waiting for that day when God’s great Garden will blossom and flourish over all the earth.

Prayer: Make us faithful gardeners, O God, until that time when you bring to completion all the faithful work done for your reign and realm, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for February 18, 2019. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here.)

“You’ve Got To Serve Somebody” A Sermon on Luke 4: 1-13

When Patty Fox had her ecclesiastical council here in January I asked her to talk about how she goes about interpreting a scripture text to prepare to preach on it. She said several wise things, but one really struck me as particularly insightful. She said, “I always look for the odd, unexpected or unusual verse, and then I ask, ‘Why is this here, and is it important?” So as I was looking at today’s story of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness I looked for something I may not have paid much attention to before. And you need to know that the temptation story, which is also in Mark and Matthew, appears in the readings for the First Sunday in Lent every year (from one of these three Gospels.) And I’ve been ordained 44 years, so I have had a chance to preach on this story more than a few times. Continue reading

Remembering Horace T. Allen (1933-2019)

My friend Horace Allen died on February 5. Horace was an important ecumenical Christian scholar of worship and liturgy.

The Reverend Doctor Horace Thaddeus Allen. Jr. received his B.A. from Princeton University, his M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and his Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary. Continue reading

“Passing the Baton” A Retirement Sermon on 2 Timothy 4: 4-7

Prologue

I am honored to be here with you on this high and holy day. I preached Steven’s installation sermon, and so I am privileged again to be in this pulpit at this service of celebration and thanksgiving for Steven’s ministry among you.

Steven joked that because of my bookending his ministry that I am the “Alpha and the Omega.” I replied that “we have an Alpha and Omega and I am not he!” Continue reading

My Top Ten Posts in 2018

Once again, as the old year passes and the new year beckons, it has been my custom to look back at my most popular posts of the year. Some years a theme emerges, and this year the theme is the idea of “transitions.” My two top posts were tributes to two extraordinary elders at their passing. There is also the sermon I preached at the baptism of my grandson in June. Other posts tried to bring some insight from Scripture and Tradition to bear on our broken world.

It is good to remind ourselves that even in tumultuous times like these the quotidian ebb and flow of life persists; there are births and deaths and the markings and celebrations therof.

Half of these posts were devotions I wrote for the United Church of Christ STILLSPEAKING project. I thank my editors for permission to republish them. Two of them were sermons I preached as a guest preacher.

About my Website: It is non-commercial and open source (but please give attribution if you quote or copy stuff). I pay for my domain name and for a WordPress tier that keeps you from having to see ads. I don’t make a penny on it, and there are no gimmicks. I had forty thousand visits in 2018, and  I currently have 124 followers. Thank you all so much for visiting and come by again in 2019.

Here are the top ten posts for 2018 in order of popularity:

Gabriel J. Fackre (1926-2018) A Remembrance

A Eulogy for Rabbi Harold I. Salzmann

“We’re Still Learning.” A Devotion on Mark 10:42-45

“Down to Earth” A Sermon on John 13:1-17

“Small Beginnings” A Baptismal Sermon on Mark 4:30-34

“Unbearable Words” A Sermon on Amos 7:7-15

“We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace” A Devotion on Psalm 23:4

“SHARE!” A Devotion on Acts 2:44-45

“Living Water and Leaky Containers” A Devotion on Jeremiah 2:13

“Scorched by Holy Fire!” A Devotion on Jeremiah 20:8b-9

Once again, as in previous years, certain posts have had real staying power over the years. Many of these are sermons that desperate preachers found on search engines.

So here are my 10 all-time most popular posts since I started “When I Survey . . .” way back in 2009, also listed by popularity:

Why did Jesus refer to Herod as “That fox” in Luke 13:32?

Prayer for a Retired Pastor

“Rejoice! Rejoice!” A Sermon for the Third Sunday in Advent

“God Gives the Growth:” A Retirement Sermon

“The Lord Will Provide:” A Sermon on Genesis 22

“There is nothing to be afraid of!” A Sermon on Psalm 27:1-2

An Ordination Sermon: The Secret Sauce of Ministry. A Recipe in Two Parts

“God With Us” A Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

“Behind Locked Doors” A Sermon on John 20:24

“The Message of the Cross” A Sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:23-25

(My header picture is the view of the marsh behind my house from my back porch. I change it with the changing seasons. R.L. Floyd, 2018)